LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
I write each recommendation individually, so please request a letter for each different program. After I agree that I am a good fit and able to write you a strong letter, then to help me write an impactful and relevant letter by please including the following documents in a single email:
- Who else is writing letters for this opportunity?
- If you took a class with me, mention the date, class, your grade, and something that distinguished you from other students. How did your effort or performance show excellence? What did the class mean to you or change in your trajectory?
- Deadline of the recommendation
- Unofficial transcript
- CV or resume
- If you worked as a research assistant, mention the dates and projects and your duties.
- School/program opportunity description or webpage
- Statement of purpose or application essay, or if none, a brief description of why you're applying
WHAT RESEARCH ASSISTANTS DO
The stages of our research process are:
- Brainstorming and idea generation (usually not RAs)
- Literature search
- Planning methods and materials
- Submitting Institutional Review Board (IRB) application (usually not RAs)
- Building study materials on paper or online
- Running participants
- Data entry
- Verifying and cleaning data (usually not RAs)
- Statistical analysis (usually not RAs, but here are interaction instructions)
- Sharing the results in a poster, talk, or manuscript (usually not RAs)
Your involvement in these processes will depend on your skills and motivation.
What you get out of this experience will depend on your effort and engagement. If you are genuinely interested in research careers or grad school, take responsibility for your participation by communicating what you’d like to work on and getting more tasks from us if you finish one early. The more responsible and responsive you are, the more interesting tasks you will receive.
We primarily use Qualtrics to build and deliver studies. I may ask you to edit surveys there.
Data entry is when you are adding to existing data files, either from a log or a questionnaire. Usually, you will enter numbers into a spreadsheet in preparation for analysis. I will train you in this process and introduce you to the software. We mostly use Google Docs, Excel, and SPSS. Accuracy is paramount. Go slowly and be aware that your work will be checked.
When it’s time to start the study, schedule Google Calendar slots about two weeks in advance, avoiding intro psych lecture times if possible. Create slots in Google Calendar for a particular research room for as many weeks as you can anticipate your schedule. Call each event “[your first name]". Next, we use SONA to schedule and communicate with research participants. Contact me for a login to use with our lab. Seven or more days ahead, make slots in SONA for when you’re available to actually run. Then, delete any unfilled Google Calendar spaces. They should agree completely.
Are you familiar with performing a literature search? The purpose is a broad sweep to identify relevant research. At this stage, don't actually read the papers, just take notes about them. See this explanation and also read about Boolean search logic, truncation, and wildcards. It’s especially importantly to use “” to form phrases. Notice how different your results are in Google when you search social memory vs. “social memory”.
- Start by reading about the research question. If the area is self-esteem, read the article on Wikipedia to get oriented to the concepts and terms.
- Go to the library website and choose the best database. PsycInfo is the central database for psychology. We also commonly use Google and Google Scholar. For medical papers, use PubMed. For economics, JSTOR. For education, ERIC.
- Search! If you get too few results (usually <20), broaden your keywords. If you get too many (usually >200), use quotes, different terms, or more terms. The “right” number of results is a tricky issue to nail down. It depends on the research question. Communicate clearly with me about your search terms and database and what you’re finding and I’ll be able to direct you.
- Good progress! Now search again using different keywords. For example, a project about randomness might include these different search terms, searched separately or together in various combinations:
fate fatalism causation causal cause randomness meaning control
“personal need for structure” “need for cognition"
- Document your process. Include the database, search terms, and notes about the search process. Was it easy to answer the question? Of the citations you found, were there many more, or were you scraping the bottom?
- When you find a good, relevant article, use Web of Science to check which articles have cited that article since it was published, and look for new material.
- Document your findings. Using a Google document or spreadsheet, probably one that I’ve shared with you already, include the citation, abstract, and your summary of why you included this article, the central finding of the article, and any questions you have for me and our team about the citation. Please see this example from a real project in our lab.
I would like you to pick one that's useful for you. If you don’t like any of these, propose something else to me: anything that is useful or interesting to you, so long as it is original, new work. Papers are due Monday of finals week at 4pm by email.
Often I assign some research article that is relevant to the study/studies they are running for me and then ask them to write a research proposal that is related to/inspired by what they read. Should be about 3 or 4 pages.
Write a complete job description and CV (curriculum vitae) or resume.
CV and resume: Pick two "pretend job positions" to which you are applying and briefly describe it at the beginning so I know the goal of your CV/resume. These should be two different positions you are applying for when you submit either a CV or resume (different jobs require each). You could use any of the careers you described above, but realize that the positions you pick should correctly reflect your understanding of the difference between when a CV is appropriate and when a resume is appropriate. A CV is an "academic resume" and has different content. A resume, on the other hand, is for more professional positions and requires more description of duties. Both should include all relevant experience you'd had up to this point as an undergraduate, but don't worry if you don't have too much experience to report. You can find out how to write these here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/641/01
You might have a CV/resume written already, but I want you to go through these websites in detail and make as polished of a CV and resume as possible, as if you were actually turning these in with an application. Remember all this is to your benefit so I want you to want to do the research and reading for this. Hopefully it'll be fun, but most of all, informative. Let me know if you have any questions at any point.
Career Research: Go to http://www.bls.gov/oco/ and research the different careers on the right hand sidebar. Pick at least 1 "research" position and 1 "applied" position. It doesn't have to be in psychology, but it obviously should be a career where you can use your Psych B.A. Most of the jobs you'll find on the site are more applied/professional positions, but remember that in research you can study basically anything you want.
For each, I want you to address in 2-3 pages double spaced each the following: summarize the career you envision specific to your interests (beyond the general description provided on that website), how you can start catering your undergraduate from THIS MOMENT to prepare and gain experience for this position, and the training and credentials required after undergraduate (i.e. grad or professional school) to obtain this position. You might have to do some outside research on your own to learn more about these careers. In the essay, please provide links back to the website for each career so I know which ones you picked.
In my view, this assignment is for your benefit. What would you like to pursue? If you'd like a fourth option, propose another task.